The availability of complete human and other metazoan genome sequences has greatly facilitated positioning and analysis of various genomic functional elements, with initial emphasis on coding sequences. However, complete functional maps of sequenced eukaryotic genomes should include also positions of all non-coding regulatory elements. Unfortunately, experimental data on genomic positions of a multitude of regulatory sequences, such as enhancers, silencers, insulators, transcription terminators, and replication origins are very limited, especially at the whole genome level. Since most genomic regulatory elements (e.g. enhancers) are generally gene-, tissue-, or cell-specific, the prediction of these elements by computational methods is difficult and often ambiguous. Therefore, the development of high-throughput experimental approaches for identifying and mapping genomic functional elements is highly desirable. At the same time, the creation of whole-genome map of hundreds of thousands of regulatory elements in several hundreds of tissue/cell types is presently far beyond our capabilities. A possible alternative for the whole genome approach is to concentrate efforts on individual genomic segments and then to integrate the data obtained into a whole genome functional map. Moreover, the maps of polygenic fragments with functional cis-regulatory elements would provide valuable data on complex regulatory systems, including their variability and evolution. Here, we reviewed experimental approaches to the realization of these ideas, including our own developments of experimental techniques for selection of cis-acting functionally active DNA fragments from large (megabase-sized) segments of mammalian genomes.
Keywords: Physical mapping, promoter, enhancer, insulator, S/MAR, transcription factor, replication origin, epigenomics, CpG methylation, chromatin
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